The neighborhood of Ralston, off Reisterstown Road in downtown Pikesville, features a variety of quaint houses.
Dutch colonials, Cape Cods and stone cottages line streets named Ivanhoe and Sherwood. Amid these Rockwell-like charmers sits a unique specimen -- a Sears catalog mail-order home -- a house delivered piecemeal in 1914.
The construction was the responsibility of the consumer.
"[Sears] only delivered along railroad lines," says Dale Klietz, 53, and owner of J.J. Cummings Floral Co. "This house came in three shipments as a three-story [house]."
The cost then for all the parts delivered was $3,000.
Klietz and his now-deceased partner purchased the 5,400-square-foot home in November 1999 for $137,000. Like the crew that meticulously fashioned thousands of parts so many years ago, the two men set about the home's moderate restoration one step at a time.
And, according to Klietz's new partner, Andrew Liro, 44, the process is continuing. The two lament having only one bathroom, which is in its original state.
There are plans, however, for two more.
"I bought [Klietz] a claw-foot bathtub for Christmas, but it doesn't fit," Liro said with a laugh. "So, it's back to the drawing board."
To date, about $30,000 has been put into home improvements, the bulk of that amount used for an addition on the east side of the house -- a family room extension of the kitchen. Klietz and Liro call it their summer room.
Here, under a cathedral ceiling, morning light floods the space. A pub-style suite of furniture takes center stage and sits diagonally to a gas fireplace. An olive-hued, herringbone high-back sofa coordinates well with a side chair of floral tapestry in shades of gold and burgundy.
White-painted wainscoting meets a russet shade at the halfway point of the north and south walls. Seven large windows topped with glass transoms consume the east wall, allowing for a cinematic view of Klietz's formal gardens, complete with a koi pond.
"I love looking out of those windows onto the gardens," says Anita Gold, Klietz's office manager. "It is as though I have been transported into a secluded, English garden."
The summerlike country feel spills into a kitchen where appliances, cabinetry and laminate flooring are all done in white and contrast sharply with scotch plaid curtains, russet wall coloring, and a vase of bright red tulips.
A frequent visitor, Gold makes particular note of the warm, cottage feeling throughout the interior, due in large part to the home's original design.
The entrance faces west and is accessed by a large, covered porch. A heavy oak door opens directly into a living room that constitutes the entire front half of the home's 36-foot width.
Original pine flooring (nicks and all) has been left uncovered; pocket doors of carved oak peep from deep inside the walls, while oak baseboard and ceiling molding frame and define a room painted in Laura Ashley Gold.
"I don't go anywhere without my paint chips," explains Klietz, as he pulls several colored cards from his wallet. "Each room is painted one of four colors -- olive, gold, russet or brick. In every room, whatever the shade, my accessories [incorporate] the other three colors."
Klietz, who did his own decorating, also made the flowing chintz draperies in earth tones of tan, rust and olive.
Unique amid the traditional sofa and side chair grouping is a Duncan Phyfe mahogany and inlaid leather coffee table in the shape of a half moon. This piece, notes Liro, belonged to former Maryland Gov. Albert C. Ritchie and once was used in the governor's mansion in Annapolis.
Behind the pocket doors, east of the living room, a dining area has bright furnishings surrounded by walls in two shades of olive. Ladder-back chairs hug a round table; the tablecloth falls to the floor. A country hutch is laden with serving dishes. All of the furnishings are white. The room is brightened by splashes of yellow jonquils in vases.
The original winding oak staircase, with its chunky banister and thick balusters, leads to the second level, and a hall painted in the same gold as the living room.
The master bedroom is in the rear and comprises two connecting rooms. Prominent against the olive walls and double-tiered white shutters is an imposing oak bed, with wrought-iron spindles woven between the posts of its headboard. An oval mirror in a triple-lipped gilt frame rests against the wall perpendicular to the bed.
The connecting sitting room echoes the dining room's cottage motif with two armoirelike pine cabinets painted in a milk color and flanking a white wooden bench. A maple dresser also was painted white, then cracked and peeled, as though it came from an old farmhouse.
A front guest bedroom on the northwest side of the house is furnished with a 1940s mahogany suite that belonged to Liro's parents. Personal photographs and many of his mother's possessions, such as a porcelain doll nightlight and crystal rosaries, are placed on the dresser, lending a homey effect.
The third floor is accessed by a staircase off Klietz's office on the southwest side of the house. Basically used as storage space, this level soon will undergo construction as a guest suite and include a bathroom.
Seated at the kitchen counter, Klietz and Liro sip morning coffee, the dogs resting contentedly at their feet. Neither wishes to leave the diverse and friendly neighborhood, where no two houses are the same.